We had signs on every door that said "Speak English"

Ms. Noel talks about some memories from her childhood and learning from her Grandmother.

Audio Chapters

DL: What do you remember from when you were a small child? Like, where did you live; what was the house like where you grew up?

EN: Oh, we had a big log house; well, lumber roof anyway. And I always remember there were two beds, a table and chairs, wash stand, a cupboard, stoves- two of them- one was a heater. And then one day there we seen some Mounties going by on a sleigh; about 4 of 5 them standing in a double-box sleigh.

DL: Mounties.

EN: Yes. And I said to my mom, “Why are these police here, Mom?” And she said, “A girl ran away from school. They think she froze somewhere.” And sure enough, they never found her, but in the spring a farmer found her along the bush in his field. She never made it. She was just about two miles from the reserve when she froze. That’s what I always remember.

DL: Which relative had the most influence on you?

EN: Relative. I guess it must be my uncles; they were always teaching me to ride. My mom’s brothers. The one that’s younger, he’s Mom’s favorite brother; he was always teaching me to ride, always teaching me to draw, always teaching me to do things before I even went to school.

DL: And were you speaking the Dakota language then?

EN: Yeah. Mom talked to us in English now and then, so we knew a bit before we went to school.

DL: You knew a bit of English, but you spoke mostly Dakota.

EN: Yeah. That’s how Dad talked to us.

DL: Can you still speak Dakota?

EN: Not very good. Dad told me not to talk in a crowd in Dakota because he said, “You might give them the wrong idea,” he said. I don’t speak it very good, he said. You see, you lose your language when you go to boarding schools because we had signs on every door that said, Speak English. And if you don’t, you get strapped.

EN: Ruth Paul.

DL: What did she teach you, or what did you learn from watching her?

EN: I learned quite a bit because I spent a lot of time with my grandma. What medicines are good for this and that.

DL: And they worked, I bet.

EN: Yes, they do.

DL: She knew what to get from the forest; she knew what to pick.

EN: Yup.

DL: Did you learn it too, and were you able to carry on that tradition?

EN: Some of them. Some of them we use yet; the medicines she used.

DL: I see. If I had a cold, could you fix it?

EN: (laughing) You wouldn’t like to drink it, though.

DL: Would it work?

EN: It works.

DL: Does it still work? Do you still use it?

EN: Yes, a cousin of mine told me that she had a real bad cold when she came over here. When we went home and she was using that same medicine, “It tastes awful, but it’s getting rid of my cold,” she said.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Elsie Noelle Interviewer Deborah Locke in Dakota Tipi First Nation Manitoba, Canada | Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. We had signs on every door that said "Speak English" May 23, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1490

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